It’s been almost a month since we went to Camp Conrad-Chinnock (Diabetes Camp). Since our hospital stay at diagnosis we’ve been hearing that we ‘have to go to camp.’ Sure, we’ll go. Did I think it would be fun? Probably. Did I think it would change our lives? No.
But it did.
The week before we went, I considered backing out. It’s not easy for me to come up with the money to go, and that’s the only reason I stuck with the plan. I was so stressed out about the food situation. They kept telling me that they were used to dealing with celiac disease, but for me, if I don’t see how they operate it’s the fear of the unknown. Ends up they really were used to it. C had an alternative to everything they ate that was comparable. They had emailed me a copy of their menu before we went so that I could bring our own alternatives to whatever he was going to eat. As soon as I arrived, they took the food to their refrigerator and that was it. They prepared it, measured it, served it. It was literally stress-free.
Anyways, it was about a three hour drive for us to get there and it was about 7000 elevation. We live at the beach so this was a pretty dramatic climb. I had been warned that we should reduce C’s insulin intake by 20% while there. However, the week or so before that his numbers weren’t in great control anyway, so I figured we’d wait and see how his body reacted before making adjustments. Turned out he was stuck in the 200s for about 36 hours at which point he finally settled averaging about 150ish with no adjustments at all. He had about 4-5 low blood sugars that were never below 50. All in all, blood sugar wise, I was calling it a huge success.
The whole point of diabetes camp is to allow a child with diabetes to have a normal summer camp experience and be able to do it safely. It’s also to introduce them to the idea that others ‘really do’ have diabetes. It’s such an isolating disease and when there’s nobody else at your school with it, you truly do feel alone. We were at ‘Family Camp’ so there were parents and siblings there without diabetes, but obviously the majority of people there were all dealing with it together. At dinner, you saw everyone around you testing, counting carbs and either giving injections or bolusing. There was a little boy there who was three years old. Our first day there he saw C testing and started yelling to his mom “He has diabetes!!” Then he ran over to her, grabbed his lancing device and brought it back to show C that they had the same one. It was a bonding experience between these kids that they will never find in their lives outside of camp.
I recently was reading quotes by C. S. Lewis and found one that fit the idea of D-Camp perfectly.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
Our second day there I found myself sitting in a chair under a tree. I had no idea where my children were or what they were doing. Our parents’ group had just ended and I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing with myself. The idea that I didn’t NEED to go find C, test him, make sure I was next to him in case of a low seemed so foreign to me. In close to a year that hasn’t been one single minute that he either wasn’t with me or had his phone for me to check in. I forced myself to stay in that chair and relax. All of the counselors there have diabetes. They all wore fanny packs with glucose tabs, meters and glucagon kits. They required kids to test above 100 before getting in the pool. They knew how to keep my son safe. Probably better than I did. It was the most amazing realization I’d had. There actually WAS somewhere in this world where we honestly COULD forget about diabetes. We did. It’s hard to believe but we really really did. We had an entire weekend with NO worries about it. I could’ve stayed forever.
There were parents’ groups, kids with diabetes groups and siblings of diabetes groups. They had fun, they swam, they hiked, they did crafts, they did rock climbing walls, they did archery, they went to clown school and they had a wildlife rescue bring animals for them to see and learn about. The parents got to meet with different doctors and ask questions, we got to “Meet the Experts” and hear the stories of some of the counselors and ask them questions. As a group, we met at night at the campfire and sang songs, did skits and just have an amazing time. Their kitchen provided low carb desserts and hot chocolate before bed. One day they even had sugar-free sno-cones.
I came away from this experience a different mom. I too, have joined that bandwagon preaching to everyone who’ll listen on how important it is they seek out a camp. I know parents of kids who live in fear of their child’s diabetes (as obviously we all do to different extents) and I saw this a a was of normalizing lives. Family camp was amazing. Diabetes truly is a family disease and it made such a difference in the way I have been managing it in my household I hope that next year we all get to go again. But, if C decides to go alone I can’t even imagine how much fun he’s going to have. After being there, I know that I could say good-bye to him at the bus stop, wish him a great week and feel excited for him.
I had no idea how profound the trip would be. You hear how amazing camp is, but it went so far above my expectations. I knew it would be awesome, but I didn’t even understand what awesome meant.
I took these feelings home with me. I signed C up for YMCA daycamp for the summer. I had been reluctant because they take the kids on field trips and I worried. But camp made me realize that C, too, is going to grow up just like those counselors. He, too, will need to know how to manage without me. It’s shown me that I can allow him freedom and responsibility. He’s been going on two field trips a week without me since then. He carries a backpack everywhere he goes with snacks, glucose tabs, a meter and a glucagon kit. The staff has been trained to use the glucagon kit. C is having a real summer this year.